Friday, December 31, 2010
This is how I roll.
Actually, I was slightly more prepared for this particular group than I usually am. See, while lying in bed the night before at approximately 3:40, unable to sleep, a spark came to me. I'd say it came to me in a dream, but you've got to be fucking asleep for things to come to you in a dream. So, it came to me in a dream-like state. It was so like a dream.
"Okay, so," I said, fudging for an enticing beginning, "New Year's is coming, and, if you think we're all going to sit around here and write out some bullshit resolutions that nobody in this room intends to keep, well, you're wrong." I was just about to say, "you're crazy," but you try not to say that sort of thing when you work in a mental hospital.
Instead of resolutions I had them write, on the top of their first page: "In 2011..." and then, underneath that, they wrote, "I hope".
After leaving some space, they wrote, "I will".
Then it was, "I want".
After that, we moved to, "I need".
We ended with, "I fear".
"Fear sounds negative," I said, "and we try our best to keep it light in here, but I'd be kidding you if I said that I didn't believe facing our fears was a good thing, a strong thing to do. Necessary, and frightening. Now, write."
And they did. In total peace and quiet. No disruptions. No outbursts. No chimpanzee imitations or sexually inappropriate remarks, no "Can we have the radio on?" or "Fuck this noise, yo." It's all about the mix of people you get in the room, and there's no way to control who sails into your group. You just roll with what you've got, cross your fingers, and hope that the fists don't fly.
Sometimes, when I'm running an art group or a creative writing group, I'll pitch in and sketch out something myself, but just as often, I don't. I sit, and sip my coffee, and walk around the room to make sure nobody's writing a psychotic, borderline missive to another patient, or to a staff member, I try to see if somebody's drawing me getting eyehole-fucked by a gigantic, radioactive tarantula.
You know, 'cuz it's all about me. And my gigantic, radioactive eyehole-fucking tarantula.
Well, since I didn't participate in this particular exercise with my patients, I guess it's my turn now. See you next year.
...that I will get better at my job. I am beginning to fall a little in love with it. My keys. My I. D. badge. My patients. My coworkers. The paperwork. The banter. The chairs in the chartroom. Seriously, I said the paperwork. The fruit in the cafeteria. The parking lot. The familiarity. Did I mention the patients? I never thought I would care so much about these people. And, because I do, I want to get better at what I do. I want to take continuing education classes and go to seminars-- not that anybody ever got better at their job by going to a seminar or taking a con. ed. class, but still-- I guess what I want is to just keep doing what I'm doing, so that I can do it better.
...continue blogging (jump for joy now, please).
...see my nephew more.
...be a better husband.
...take more photographs. Jesus-- where has the last year of my life gone?
...do better at maintaining the few friendships that I have.
...pee sitting down more often. It's just easier for everybody.
...to be a father. Oh, how I want that. How I want.
...to iron my fucking shirts more often. Oh, wait-- this was supposed to be about material possessions I need. Right. Um... I don't know.... more wrinkle-free shirts?
Oh, God. Every. Fucking. Thing. Especially that motherfucking tarantula in my eyehole.
Happy New Year, my loves.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Well, it's Thursday morning, and it's officially your opportunity to be quick and clever because...
It's Not Easy Being Me.
At ten o'clock on Tuesday evening, Mrs. Apron and I returned from our foray into the snowy depths of hell known as Rhode Island for our decidedly non-vacation. We set sail in my wife's Honda Fit at 11:45am, stopping only briefly (about forty-five minutes) in da Bronx to see her former roommate and said former roommate's new baby.
Wednesday morning, I woke up at 6:15am for my first day back at work in Ye Olde Mental Hospitalle since Christmas Eve day. I slip on the ice in the back alley and nearly fall on my ass whilst throwing out dog shit, and I think to myself what a terrible way to go it would be, had I went that way: lying there on the ice in back of my house, all mangled up like a broken, Jewish pretzel, clutching fervently onto a baggie of dog turds as if they were some kind of golden chalice or swag from a successful bank heist.
My Volvo was half-covered in snow and ice, and I started it and let it run with the ass-warmers, defogger, defroster, heater, and such work their magic for thirty-five minutes before even busting out the scraper. I had to access the trunk to get it, which truly began the It's-Not-Easy-Being-Me Adventure.
See, once I got the ice-scraper out, ya see, I set about de-icing the car. Which is a lot less exciting than icing a cake, or a stripper's nipples, I would (and have) imagine(d). When it came time to put the ice scraper back inside the trunk, I found I couldn't close the trunk. Well, it closed maybe 85% of the way, but the right side was grotesquely askew. Something was very wrong. But, at 6:45am, you kind of can't see shit, so I couldn't ascertain what the problem was. I figured it was something stuck under where the trunk hinge was supposed to fold, but, like I said, I just couldn't see, damnit. So I did what any Master's level individdle would do: I opened the trunk and slammed it down.
About, oh, I don't know, eight or nine times.
"MOTHERFUCKER!" I hissed loudly during attempt six, trying not to awaken the neighbors with a full-blown curse-attack. (Sidebar: they're considering suspending us at work for swearing-- in the chart-room, away from the patients. Isn't that fucking niggardly?) Anyway, the trunk, it would not close.
So, I immediately started having penny arcade fantasies of getting carbon monoxide poisoning while driving to work with the heater on and all the windows tightly rolled up. Surely exhaust fumes would seep through the gaping cracks in between the rear of the car and the trunk lid and kill me mid-way through my commute. This shit happens. I once read about a police officer in Maine who died in the 1960s because he had parked his car with its rear into a snowbank in a parking lot so he could write a report. The tailpipe got clogged with snow and the poor sonofabitch inadvertantly killed himself.
So, what did I do? Well, after slamming the trunk-lid down an additional four times, I resigned myself to a chilly commute, driving thirty-seven minutes to work with all of the windows down, in temperatures registering 31 degrees. At least I had the ass-warmer on.
Upon arrival at work, I got out and opened the trunk-lid again. Now that it was light out at last, I could see a huge hunk of solid ice wedged underneath the trunk hinge. I went bananas at it with the ice-scraper, beating the merciless blue fuck out of it.
"It was you all along, cunt-face!" I yelled, laughing as I went about my hacking business. Just then, one of my co-workers alighted from his vehicle and furrowed his brow at me. I waved. He waved back. No explanation needed. After all, we all just got our asses kicked by some serious-shit snow, so we're all a little bit off, and, of course, we do work at a mental hospital.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
First of all, she reads "My Masonic Apron," which only goes miles to prove that very point, as well as to illustrate deftly that she is a lady of a most discerning literary palate.
On Friday, she returned from a trip to Morocco with two of her friends. She telephoned her mother to let her know that she had returned and, when she heard that my wife and I were staying at her parent's house from the 25th-28th, she asked to speak to me.
"Hi," she said.
"Hi," I said, as one does in these situations.
"What are you doing there?" she asked.
"Well, um, we're... um... on... vacation," I muttered as three dogs collided into each other in a noisy, furry hurricane on the kitchen floor beneath my feet.
"But... that's not a vacation," my sister-in-law observed.
Having now successfully lived through it, I can wholeheartedly agree that, no, it isn't.
We tried to keep it sane. Really, we did. Instead of staying at this house of massive insanity and emotionally stifled instability, we positioned ourselves to stay, with one of our dogs, at "the cottage," which isn't really a cottage at all. It's a crappy two-bedroom house with hollow-core doors and a vom-yellow dishwasher from the Johnson administration that my mother-in-law purchased for, well, I don't know. For some reason. Day One went reasonably well. However, that funny little blizzard came to say "hello" on Day Two, and it necessitated an absolutely terrifying drive from Providence, R.I., to the cottage in Fall River, M.A., to collect our belongings, and our dog, and bring all back to the crazy house so that we wouldn't be stuck at the cottage with nothing to consume but pickles, napkins, and our own feet.
Being a conservative fellow with a preservation instinct carefully honed by years of being attended to by a neurotic Jewish mother, I have only been in precious few circumstances where I truly believed that death could come at any moment. The drive to and from The Cottage was one of those times. The roads were incredibly treacherous, the visibility was, well, who are am I kidding-- there wasn't any visibility, and my wife was, um, close to hyperventilating in the passenger seat. The scariest bit, I have to admit, was the last stop sign before arriving at The Cottage. It's where the road you're on T's into the road that runs directly parallel to the river. The one that was, at that moment, absolutely tempestuously roaring. The one into which, had I not been traveling at 7 miles-per-hour and had our car not been equipped with anti-lock brakes, we would have plunged into, frozen in, and drowned, making for a very un-Christmasy obituary.
But we didn't die.
We didn't go to Heaven, or Hell. Just the Purgatory of my in-laws' house.
The place where you are not permitted to be sad, or angry, or disappointed, or even in a slight funk, where feelings of even the slimmest negativity or reality are mitigated and negated to death. Where the cure for the mopes is baking cookies at 1 a.m.-- for nobody in particular, just because that is what must be done. Where you must be forced to go skiing even though you have just spent half-an-hour digging a two-inch-long splinter out of your toe and can barely walk.
Where you have to be as cute and as quiet as the window curtain fabric.
If we had been having any fun up here, I would have felt inordinately guilty about the fact that my father was lumbered back in Pennsylvania with caring for our other dog that we left behind but, as I told him in a text message, "There is no fun happening up here."
And as he so artfully put it in a text back:
"Think about all the people who had great xmas day only to find out they can't get home... winter is shit... The same every year ...Just b safe."
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Or, you may not have noticed anything amiss at all, which says to me that the quality of this blog has been toilet doo-dooworthy for some time-- which is also possible, I have to admit. Hopefully, you've observed a difference. If not, well, I'll try to step up my game.
The reason for the deterioration of bloggy goodness is that, since Friday afternoon, my wife and I have been on vacation in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and environs. Ever the procrastinator, and ever-stricken as I am with my own quaint version of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I sat down on Thursday evening, the night before Christmas Eve Day, and hammered out blog posts for December 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th and, yeah, today. (It's funny, because I'm writing this on the 23rd, and calling the 28th "today." Maybe it just sounds funny to me because I have turned my brain into something resembling eight-day-old French Onion Soup.)
Why do I do it to myself? I don't know. Because I kid myself into thinking that you expect it of me, and that there is a "you" to begin with. Because, since I don't know when, I've done this every day, and I would feel terrible and naked and sad if one day rolled around and I didn't do this anymore. Of course, there was a me before blogging, and there will be a me after blogging, and one day I know I will stop for good, because that's what bloggers do (we're very good at stopping, at one point or another-- just ask any of us) but I'm just not ready to do that yet.
And, yeah, I could (and have) blog from my super-snappy, four-year-old smartphone with its QWERTY keyboard, but my thumbs aren't eighteen anymore. Back when my thumbs were eighteen, texting didn't exist, as hard as that is to believe. The most significant thing I ever did with my thumb before texting was shove it up my butt during thirteen years worth of mathematics instruction.
I've now officially been blogging for so long that I don't even remember what I like so much about it. It's changed, I know that. I remember why I started-- to get back at the oppressors who censured me and maligned my good name after finding something I had written online that bore my name. My real name. The one I keep hidden. So who am I getting back at, really? In the shadows, under the covers. Ridiculous. What am I afraid of, still? Well, the fact of the matter is that, if you're employed by anyone other than yourself, and you write like I write, you just can't use your name.
You just can't.
But the tradeoff is that I can pretty much say whatever I want, at 7:18am, Eastern Standard Time.
And I think I really, really like that.
Monday, December 27, 2010
I don't know why I bother with a disclaimer like that. You're going to find out for yourself soon enough.
I'm Skiing Today
This might be the last day I'm alive,
but I sure hope that is not the case.
With luck I am sure I'll survive,
It won't be skill that saves me with grace.
'Cause I'll fall on my ass and snowplow my face,
Even though I have kick-ass, brand-new ski boots,
I ain't no red-faced, beer-swilling ski-bum called "Ace,"
I'm just another brittle-boned Jew with snow on his toots.
If you see me come down the slope at a high rate of speed,
Get out of my way, or your day will get truly fucked up,
For ski school and training and remediation I need,
I'm the equivalent of lobotomized, newborn, dumb pup.
I'm skiing today.
And you're praying today.
'Cause your boy Apron's in one hell of a lurch.
Like I said yesterday-- if you know what's good, get your ass back in that church.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
You're in big trouble, Paddy Boy. Oooooh, yes-- big, big big-boy trouble! We're talkin' cricket bat to the ass time. Fo sho.
Well, not quite yet.
Not, at least, before I say, "Get your ass back in that church!"
Yeah. That's right. I said it.
What? You think you're done?
You think you can't take orders from a Jew?
Well. Think again.
I know, I know-- you think you've put in your dues, right?
Christmas Eve. Midnight mass. Christmas Day. I get it. You're Jesus'd out, right?
It's Sunday, Mothers. Time to go to church... AGAIN!
Time to tithe. Time to stand up, and sit down, time for some of y'all to hit those kneelers. Yeah. You know you like that shit. You LOVE that shit!
Kneel for Jesus!
I know-- it's totes a real drag that the day after Christmas is on Sunday. But, hey, that's life on the other side, ain't it? It's okay-- it's not like you have to dress up or anything. Some Sundays, I see people pour out of church wearing clothes I wouldn't walk my dog in, even late at night when nobody can really see.
I mean-- what is going on these days? People used to get dressed up in nice hats and white gloves to get on a fricking airplane.
Hey! Don't think that just because I'm on a tangent that I'm going to forget the whole point of this blog.
Don't. You. Think it.
Get back inside that church, you.
You think you can spend all of today playing with your goddamned iPad? Think again.
That is all.
(I'm watching you on Google Earth. Seriously-- get the fuck back in that church before I lay some smackdown.)
Saturday, December 25, 2010
(Wives do that, just so you know.)
I've lived in the same place my whole life. I know all kinds of meandering shortcuts and long-ways-home. I can take you mansion sight-seeing a couple towns away, subliminally finding my way to this impressive home or that stoney, Gothic, gargantuan dwelling, or I can take you on a somewhat less-than-thrilling tour of the sights of my childhood: my old elementary school, the hardcore synagogue my family used to attend (guys in the pews, gals in the balcony), there's the house where my pediatric allergist collapsed and died of a heart attack in his garage, there's the pharmacy where I stole my first glance at a "Playboy," there's the lawn I slid onto in my old Volvo 240 in the snow on my way home from school. You know-- because I was driving like a sixteen-year-old dickball.
And, if you were in the car with us, maybe holding onto the green stuffed monkey I keep in the back of my car, you might giggle, or roll your eyes, when you'd inevitably hear my wife say to me,
"Oh, Bobber-- it's so funny how you always know just where you're going around here but you don't know the names of any of the streets."
And she's right. I don't.
But I'd never get you lost. Stick with me, kid.
Street names are important, but not to me. They don't help me get where I'm going-- not when I'm in my own backyard. Of course, when giving directions to our house to people, it can be a bit challenging, because I start invoking landmarks in a harried panic when I realize I don't know the names of any of the streets surrounding my own home. My street is one piddly little block, sandwiched in between two perpendicular streets, and I even have trouble remembering which street bears which name. That's how bad it gets. If you're ever coming to see us, make sure that GPS is strapped to you like a breastpump.
Near the Pennsylvania/Delaware border, there's a street that intersects Route 1, feeding into a commercial development, and the street is called "Consumer Credit Way." I don't go down Route 1 that far that often but, when I do, and I pass that intersection, I always shake my head. What a waste of an opportunity.
An opportunity for what? Well, I don't know. We like to name things in this culture. We dedicate things. We consecrate things. Buildings, parks, rec centers, bridges, tunnels, stadiums and, yeah, streets. Well, at least, some of us like to do it.
On May 1st, 1981, NYPD Patrolmen John Scarangella and his partner, Richard Rainey were driving in their radio car together down a street in Queens. Who remembers what street it was? Doesn't matter much anymore, I suppose. While on patrol, they happened upon a filthy, white van that fit the description of a vehicle used as the getaway car in several burglaries. Flipping on their car's lightbar, a couple of bonks on the airhorn. Call it in.
The shooting started before Scarangella and Rainey even got out of their radio car. Bullets-- 30 white-hot bullets-- screaming through the warm spring air, shattering their windshield, pummeling through metal. Richard Rainey was shot fourteen times and miraculously survived. John Scarangella, 42 and the father of four children, was shot twice in the head. He clung to life's frayed edges in the hospital for two weeks before the thread frayed its final time.
Signal 10-13. Call it in.
29 years after the blood of Patrolmen Scarangella and Rainey had long since been washed from that pavement in Queens, a fight was being waged to name another piece of pavement-- Baisley Boulevard in South Jamaica-- for the slain Patrolman John Scarangella. It was an idea spearheaded by Scarangella's sons, Thomas and Gerard. Happy Father's Day, John.
It might come as a surprise that not everybody was so into the idea. Adjoa Gzifa, the chairwoman of Queens-based Community Board 12, rejected the initial application. Other applications to name streets after fallen police officers have received the cold shoulder from Ms. Gzifa as well who, apparently, isn't such a fan of the NYPD. Most people who aren't, I expect, might alter their opinion if they saw someone trying to force their way into their house in the middle of the night.
Whom would they call then-- Greenpeace?
I've made that argument before, and it's annoying to make. It's blue-collar and it's tired and and it's cliche, and it's, well, sad.
It finally happened, though. A couple of days ago, it was decided that a section of Baisley Street, the part that runs past John Scarangella's 113 Precinct, will be named Officer John Scarangella Way. And I hope people pay a hell of a lot more attention to that street sign than I pay to all of the ones in my neighborhood.
I don't know why, exactly, I decided on this story to write about for Christmas Day. Maybe because it's a gift to the Scarangella family, who has suffered such intense tragedies and indignities and wrongs since May 1st, 1981. Perhaps because it's a gift to the people of New York City, another chip in the pocket of dignity and honor. Maybe because it's a story about sacrifice and redemption. Maybe it's something we can feel good about-- that sometimes in this dirty little world of ours, the good guys do win-- even if what they've won is a piece of pavement and a metal sign on a pole.
Maybe because, today especially, it's a particularly convenient time to be grateful that men like Richard Rainey and John Scarangella ever walked this earth.
Merry, merry Christmas.
Friday, December 24, 2010
I'm pretty sure my husband is addicted to adult porn movies. We have several pornographic DVDs in the house and I can tell when they have been moved. He denies he's watching them, so confronting him again will only make him more angry and possibly push him "underground."
Our sex life, which used to be grand, has become almost non-existent. Do you have any suggestions? -- SUSPICIOUS IN FLORIDA
This letter really confused the fuck out of me, I've got to tell you. I mean, how old are you and your husband? You say that your sex life used to be, excuse me, "grand", which leads me to believe that you and your husband must be approximately one hundred and sixty-eight years old. If this is the case, then one might expect that your sex life, and anybody else's who has attained your age, might be something less than "grand."
Personally, I don't think that your husband is watching those so-called "pornographic DVDs". I think he's just moving them to fuck with your head. Let's face it-- nobody watches pornographic DVDs anymore. Haven't you heard that the brick-and-mortar XXX video stores are just as pase as Oldsmobile, the rotary phone, and the word "grand"? If your husband's got half a brain in his head, he's watching free, streaming porn online and, like I said, he's moving the DVDs to upset you. Which, let's face it, is pretty funny.
As far as him going "underground," really: this might be the best possible alternative for everybody in this situation, including me. If your husband were to construct for himself some sort of bomb-proof, man-cave, mastur-dorm, let's say three-hundred feet underneath the surface of your backyard, where he could beat off in total isolation, where you'd never have to hear the screams of constantly-penetrated Asian waifs through specially-wired computer speakers, well, it might just be a Merry Christmas in your neck of the woods after all.
I am a woman who is wondering what to say when someone calls me "sir" on the phone. I have heard my voice recorded, and I don't think I sound like a man. Still, it happens. It makes me feel angry and mortified. What do I say? -- "MA'AM" IN CINNAMINSON, N.J.
Next time, before answering the phone, turn your head and cough. That should clear it up.
I have two small grandsons. They asked me why Santa Claus begs for money in front of the shopping mall. I was shocked by the question and didn't know what to tell them. So I said it was to get toys for all the other boys and girls.
My grandsons also asked me if Santa goes to bingo. I gave them the same answer. My daughter (their mom) was also surprised by their questions. I'm a bingo enthusiast, so I guess that's why they asked. Did I answer properly? what would you have said?
-- GRANDMA GLORIA IN OHIO
You did not answer properly. If you had, you would not have written to me asking if you had or not. That lingering doubt that gnaws at the base of your spine, like a virus-ridden rodent, that accursed, venomous fiend called instinct is your friend. Heed it. Stroke it. Allow it to expel its truth inside of you. It will be, in a word: grand.
What you should have told your grandsons is that Santa begs for money in front of the shopping malls for the same reason emaciated sluts with sunken eyes and bulging veins do it: he's a goddamned heroin addict.
And of course Santa plays BINGO. Doesn't every hairy, old, fat fucker?
Merry Christmas, Bitches.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
I'm just that way, I guess.
There's a scene towards the end of the film where the first mate of a ship approaches the Captain, played by the wonderful Allan Corduner. The scene is a lavish party on the boat, given in the captain's honor, with lively swing music playing in the background and all the elite ship's guests dressed to the nines. The first mate observes the captain for a moment and he says,
"Sir, you look sad."
The captain looks listlessly off into the distance and, almost casually remarks,
"I am always a little sad."
That bit of dialogue, lasting for maybe four or five seconds, is my favorite part of the film, and I suppose it is that way because we love what we feel instinctively is truth, and, for me, that's what that is. There's just those tiny, fleeting, almost absurd moments where you identify. Where you acknowledge. Where you catch yourself almost whispering out hoarsely,
Back in college, when I was seeing a therapist once a week, I delicately broached the topic of anti-depressant medication with my therapist.
"Well," I said, "it's been a year-and-a-half, and I guess you know me well enough by now. What do you think?"
Rick sat across from me, curly carrot-topped, snowflake sweater, ruddy cheeks, content in his gayness and his charming, gap-toothed grin. His eyes crinkled as he crossed his corduroyed legs and said,
"What do you think?"
"Jesus, Rick," I said, "do you have to be such a fucking therapist all the time?"
He laughed. Which, of course, is just what I wanted. My own private audience for my weekly one-man show. And you couldn't ask for a better audience of one than Rick. He was, quite simply, to die for. And he thought the same of me. It was almost unhealthy.
I told him that I felt I ought to be farther along than I was, that I thought I had all the insight I was going to have and my mood wasn't changing, my writing was still intractably dark, and I was still bitter and angry and sullen about the same things I was bitter and angry and sullen about years before.
"I don't know," he said, "part of me thinks you're exactly who you should be right now. But you're never going to stop wondering, I suppose, so I'll give you a referral to a psychiatrist. Mostly to shut you up."
The next week, I found myself in a strange-looking, uncomfortably dark office on the other side of town, and in wheeled a quadriplegic psychiatrist in a motorized wheelchair, mouth-operated through a blow-tube. I talked to this guy for an hour. "Don't stare at his legs, don't stare at his legs, don't stare at his legs" I repeated to myself in my head, over and over. He diagnosed me with chronic, low-level anxiety and depression and told me about medication he would prescribe to me, if I wanted it.
Turns out, I didn't want it.
And so maybe that's why I'm always a little sad. Maybe things would have been different if I had called up Dr. Hot-Wheels and said, "Hey, let's get those prescriptions filled." But I kind of doubt it. After all, they're pills, not pixie-dust.
I don't know why my brain is wired, or cross-wired maybe, the way it is, why it ventures into dark places sometimes, why it can't shut off at night sometimes, why it broods and obsesses and why it finds the sick and depraved funny, and why my lip trembles when I'm driving in my car sometimes.
Of course, the miscarriage didn't help.
It's been over a year, and the searing, shattering pain has worn off, but the cold, flat ache remains. The uncertainty about whether we will get pregnant again persists, and I hear it in every silence that passes between us, in every off-hand remark, in every sigh and in every cough. I hear it and my ears bleed.
But at least now I know why I am always a little sad.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
I resisted Facebook for a long time and, even after I ceased resistance, I resisted doing things on it, like updating my status and uploading pictures. Finally, I realized that I was resisting just to be contrary, to be different than "the masses," to eschew what is popular-- kind of like why I still haven't seen "Titanic," why I don't read "Hyperbole and a Half," and why I often pee sitting down.
Of course, posting shit on Facebook is fun. I can't deny the funny little tickle I get when Adam K. "Likes" one of my statuses (or, um, most of them) or when someone makes a clever comment about an ancient photograph scanned and posted by one of my elementary school cohorts (I'll get you for that, Lauren G., or whatever the hell your married last name initial is now-- are you really a mother? Gah!) What can I say? Facebook is the new Heaven and Zukerberg is on everybody's crucifix of fun.
Happy. Times. Bitchcakes.
I was on Le Livre de Visage recently and I was struck by the number and diversity of things that people "Like." For instance, on my wall, I learned today that two people (I don't know who they are) "Like" a photograph of a stuffed Gonzo climbing a Christmas tree, presumably ascending to take the place of the star of Bethlehem. Two people, one of them an old classmate of mine, like someone's status that informs the world that, "Amoxicillin smells just like it did 25 years ago." 3 people also like chocolate Teddy Graham Cracker crust, or, at least, they "Like" it, or, at least, they "Like" the mere mention of it.
As part of the work I do to advocate support for the families of fallen police officers, I also get Facebook updates from The Officer Down Memorial Page. They just sent me notice that a motorcycle officer in Texas died from injuries sustained while escorting, ironically, a funeral procession. The update was sent out six minutes ago, and already 15 people "Like" it, which sounds absolutely awful, but I know that's not what they mean.
On my own profile page, Facebook has alerted me to the fact that at least one of my "Friends" "Likes" Bacardi, which is nice for "Her." Four of my "Friends" also "Like" something called "Small Business Saturday," which, I suppose, encourages you to shop at small businesses. On Saturday, of course. I guess they can't be Orthodox Jewish businesses.
(That word looks funny. I "Like" it.)
And, speaking of which, I thought I'd present you, gentle reader and undoubted Facebookaholic, a list of things that I "Like."
Seriously. Can't get enough of the shit. I mean, I like sweet things, and chocolatey things, but give me some sausages, bacon, ham (yeah, all on the same plate-- it's fine) homefries, cheeseeggs and I will "Like" the motherfuckin' nitrates out of that. I also like processed soups. And soups that aren't processed, but I don't eat nearly enough of those.
I know I talk about owning a used Volvo a lot, but, what can I say, I only got it in April, so the novelty's still there. With an unusually chilly November behind us and an equally frigid December kicking our asses, I definitely "Like" my ass ensconsed within an ergonomic, leathery, heated driver's seat. I will be keeping this ass-warmer on all winter, and I hope I don't break it. Because I won't Goddamned well "Like" that.
* T-Shirts with Words, Slogans, or Pictures on Them
They give you a convenient excuse to look at womens' chests. And who doesn't "Like" that?
* Christmas Lights
I know, right? Who the hell doesn't "Like," or even just like, Christmas lights? Well, I really do. When I was a boy, my father used to take us out in the car into the "other" neighborhoods to cruise the streets and gaze at the thousands of lights that studded the homes of Christmas celebrating folk. One winter, I think I was maybe six or seven, I was stricken with a Christmastime ague and a fever of 102. When I heard that my mother forbade me from going out to look at Christmas lights that year, I threw a fucking (O,) holy (night) roller, and my father somehow convinced my mother that it was okay to take me out, provided I was dressed appropriately. Reluctantly, she consented, but only after dressing me in two sweatsuits and wrapping me in the warmest blanket in the house.
I'll never forget, lying down on my back in the back seat of our 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, staring up and up through the window at all the beautiful lights. They must have looked that much cooler, upside-down and fever-glazed. It was the best Christmas ever, man.
* Lobster Tail
You don't really appreciate how much you "Like" lobster tail until you've tried to eat a whole lobster, at a restaurant, in public, in front of other people. It would maybe be one thing if you rented out the whole place so you could just be there, by yourself, wearing that motherfucking plastic bib, sitting there at a table, all alone, with that big, red, intimidating thing, and you're there clutching some fucking prehistoric, dentist-looking tools, instead of, you know, a knife and fork.
I ate a whole lobster, or tried to, in 2002, and it's probably never going to happen again. I was sweating through my shirt not halfway through the meal. I mean, come on.
Thank you for spending another year with me. Wow. I "Like" you-- like, for real.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
We're pretty stupid that way, I guess.
They say that part of the biggest clusterfuck about drugs is that, the first time you try a lot of the hard shit, the high is so unfuckingbelievable that the track-marked motherdrugger spends the remainder of his or her natural life using to try to replicate the intensity of that first line, or that first hit. And that's the problem: it's never going to be that good again.
Ever have a car that was as awesomsauce as your first car? No. Neither have I. And, for two years, I drove around in Herbie, the Love Bug.
Um, yeah. Seriously, that's a picture of my car. And even that wasn't as cool (at least, in my head) as my first car. Which is just another example of there being serious issues with my brain.
Anyway, we're dreamers. We're thrill-seekers, and we're obsessed with replicating those first thrills of our lives. Remember your first kiss? Um, I do. Frequently. Sometimes my trousers are around my ankles when I'm remembering it. Sometimes not. You know-- depends.
Though I never really thought of myself as someone who chased dragons-- because I've never done drugs or consumed alcohol other than Shabbat wine or a sip of champagne-- I've recently realized that I do chase my own particular dragons, in my own particular way. Maybe this is why I've owned 10 cars in the space of approximately sixteen years. Here we go, in chronological order:
1966 Volkswagen Beetle
1990 Ford Crown Victoria, late of the Delaware State Police
1988 Volvo 240-DL
1994 Ford Taurus
1997 Ford Crown Victoria
2001 Chevrolet Impala
2001 Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo (Herbie replica pictured above)
2005 Ford Focus
2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser
2002 Volvo S-40 Turbo
Yeah, I'm a little embarrassed by that, but I also think it's fucking awesome. And, I can promise you that there will be a lot, lot more, and some of them will be pretty fucking crazy.
Fortunately, I'm not this way with women. My wife has often opined how lucky she is, and how lucky I am, that I am not as fickle.
But I don't think it's about being fickle, automotively speaking. I think it's about thrill-seeking. About dragon chasing. I'm always trying to replicate the excitement of getting into a "new" car for the first time. Because, really, there is no feeling in the world like it. And it doesn't have anything to do with "New Car Smell," because I've only owned a "brand new car" two times out of the ten.
I also chase the clementine dragon. If you eat clementines, you know what I'm talking about. You can't eat just one of those pert little orange bastards. They're just so fucking good. You eat one and you go, "Oh! Oh, that was so sweet and succulent and wet and refreshing, and..... small. How the hell can I not have another one?" And you have a second one.
And the second one tastes like shit.
This happened to me on Sunday. And, because I learn from my mistakes like a lobotomized housecat, it happened to me again last night. I brought a second clementine upstairs as I was thinking about a blog topic. I bit into it lustily, my oral cavity wet with the sensory memory of the first, glorious clementine I consumed about three minutes prior.
"Auuughghh!" I whined. "Fucking dis-gus-ting! Why is it that every time I go to have a second clementine, it inevitably tastes like a monkey's dick?" I asked, rhetorically and hypothetically, of course. I was about to put another piece of it in my mouth when Mrs. Apron, at her sewing machine, exclaimed,
"Don't eat more of it! Throw it in the disposal."
"But that's all the way downstairs!" I bitched.
"Then throw it in the trashcan here."
"But it'll rot in here!" I moaned. Jesus, can you imagine being married to me for even ten minutes?
I ended up going (all the way) downstairs and throwing it angrily into the disposal. The aftertaste is still befouling my mouth, even as I type. What I need, of course, are cookies.
The question is: how can I eat just seven?
Monday, December 20, 2010
I stared up at the faint, dark outline of the ceiling fan as the rhythmic thrum of the air purifier mixed with my cataclysmic thoughts of how drama therapy was going to go down as the single worst idea in the history of the therapeutic milieu.
I was very worried it would end up looking something like this:
I'd, of course, be one of the fuckers getting his face stepped on.
My supervisor, who has a rather inflated opinion of my capabilities, decided to schedule me to do two rounds of drama therapy, once on the general unit, and once on the lock-down, acute unit. Drama therapy in the land of the bolt-down tables? Was this practical, or was it even possible?
Before I go any further and make it sound like my supervisor is entirely to blame for me trying out something like this in a mental hospital, I should point out that I, um, signed myself up for it. Three weeks ago, I put down on the calendar that I would like to try out drama therapy on the 17th. I do this kind of thing to myself a lot. I'll sign myself up for something, as long as it's at least two weeks away. If it's happening tomorrow, even if it's as innocuous as a television show I've just found out about, or dinner with a friend, I'll turn it down. It's just too soon. I don't roll like that. But, I'll book myself for pretty much anything if I can perceive that it's far enough into the future that I don't have to worry about it, yet. Public execution? Sure, I'll take pictures-- it's in a month, right? Pubectomy in six weeks? No problem-- I'm there.
In a way, I felt obligated to sign myself up to teach drama therapy. When you come into a job for which you're completely unqualified, and they find out that you're a theatre major-- your sorry, skinny ass is pretty much going to teach drama therapy, like it or lump it.
So I did my half-assed, haphazard preparations the day before. Because that's what I do. I was practically trembling as I walked into work on Friday. I looked at one of my coworkers.
"This is going to blow up in my face like a cake that says, 'Happy Birthday, Hindenburg' on it, isn't it?" He smiled wanly.
"Well, it may, but, remember," said my typically sardonic cohort, in a rare, sincere moment, "you may have the best idea in the world for a group therapy session-- and that doesn't mean it's going to work, and that's not always your fault. Sometimes, it all just goes to shit."
Oddly enough, I took comfort in that sentiment as I tucked my bulging clipboard underneath my right arm with what was becoming a familiar gesture.
"Oh. The humanity," I said flatly. I sighed briskly. "Okey-dokey: here we go."
A patient encountered me in the hallway on my way to the activities room.
"What the hell is drama therapy, guy?"
"Well, you're just going to have to come on down and see what's behind Door Number One in order to find out, aren't you?" I said with game-show enthusiasm. The more truthful answer would, of course, have been, "I have no. Fucking. Idea." But I couldn't say that. In the land of steel doors and cinder block walls, the man with the clipboard and the keys had better have a fucking idea, or be very good at faking it.
Halfway through the actors' warm-up exercises, Theresa (name changed) was smiling. I hadn't seen her smile in three months. Her psychiatrist was peeking through the window in the closed door, and her eyes were popped wide. Other faces, those of coworkers, crowded around the small window, peering excitedly at the strange spectacle of teacher and patients, leaping about the room enthusiastically, doing vocal warm-ups, doing scenes, working together, stretching, being silly. It didn't go pitch-perfect of course.
"Okay, Olga," I whispered to a patient with whom I was doing an improv scene, out of earshot of the rest of the patients, "in this scene, I'll be your son, and you're my mom, and I've just broken your favorite lamp. And we'll improvise a scene and the other patients will have to try to figure out what we're doing."
We walked back into the room where all the patients were waiting, and the first thing Olga says to me is,
"Why'd you break Mommy's favorite lamp, sweetie?"
After the group ended, after any group ends, I had difficulty taking stock of the situation. When you're in it, you lose yourself, and time, and your brain is working feverishly to make sure patients are engaged, not ripping each others' faces off, or licking the armchairs. It was 12:00pm before I knew it, and people filed out of the room. They were smiling, giggling, chatting with each other about what they had just done. A male patient, who did not participate at all, but sat and watched the whole time ("What is drama therapy," I asked him, "without an audience?") looked up at me and said,
"You know what I liked the most about that group?"
"No," I said, "what?"
"That Theresa smiled. You did good."
No, I thought-- they did good. They could have blown me off. Could have said, "Fuck this-- this is gay. You don't know what you're doing." But they took a chance, they went with it, and it went really well. And I guess I'm proud of myself, not because the group went well, because I could do the exact same thing next week with a new set of patients and it could absolutely tank, but I'm proud of myself for volunteering myself for something scary. For not pussying out. For taking a chance. For embracing being green at something, and not hiding behind the safety net of the same old thing.
Besides-- I had fun, too.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Scholarly (um, me?).
A little too Ernest Borgnine.
See, I like to free-associate. I'm a free-wheeler. I'm an eighteen-wheeler. I'm eighteen and pregnant. I'm young, dumb, and full of cum. Well, at least the latter two are true. Oh, God-- what am I supposed to do with all this cum?
I would like to donate at least some of it to science or whatever. My wife recently asked me if I'd ever donated semen to a sperm bank. I laughed in her face. I mean, didn't she think that would have come (ha) up in any one of our first month's worth of date conversations? I mean, I'm pretty liberal with information, especially information about my dick and related ballsack. Had she asked, I would have told her. Hell, I would have told her even if she didn't ask. Especially if she didn't ask.
I like to talk about stuff like that. It makes me feel, I don't know-- gay?
In the Victorian sense, of course.
So, right. What I was trying to say was I'm really not feelin' the whole paragraph vibe today. So I thought what I might do would be to compile a list of things/people/instruction manuals that I would like to see. The idea hit me while Mrs. Apron and I were at the gym last night (yes, we still go, thank you, just not as often, thank you anyway) and, on one of the televisions was playing one of the "Pirates of the Carribean" movies. I don't know which one it was, because I've never seen any of them, but it was one with the guy who has an octopus for a face and he kills this perriwig-wearing motherfucker by grasping onto dude's face and neck with his tentacles and shoving said tentacles in dudes mouth and they pop out his nose, which made me laugh on my stationary, recumbent bicycle.
(By the way, I had to look up the spelling of both the words "recumbent" and "stationary", because I am getting progressively stupider, probably due to the inevitable atrophying process of my brain as well as the fact that I watch too many shows on A&E.)
Anyway, while watching this asspirate movie I thought to myself, "Gee, I would really like to see one pirate movie, just one, where absolutely nobody, anywhere, has on a fucking eye-patch."
I mean, really. What is it about being a pirate that makes people so prone to losing one eye? Do those fokakta parrots pirates are required to keep on their shoulders claw out pirates' eyes? Or is it part of some superviolent, homoerotic initiation ritual on pirate ships that involves skull-fucking? I don't know. And I don't wanna know. All I know is that I would like to see....
* A pirate movie where not one motherfucker has on an eyepatch.
* A black, female president of the United States who is not named Oprah Winfrey. One named Pam Grier would be sexcellent.
* Astronauts on a space mission fornicating in zero-gravity. Is it even possible? And would mission control play Barry White music during the event? Come on, you're curious.
* More people say, "I'm sorry." And not just to me, either.
* Chocolate covering every single solitary thing that I eat for one week.
* Probably at least eighty-seven different females from various walks of life in any reasonable and prudent state of undress. (Don't worry, Mrs. Apron, you're on the list.)
* An antique Volkswagen Beetle in my parking pad. (I know I don't celebrate Christmas, but I do make exceptions.)
* My mortgage disappear by fairy magic.
* My grandfather again.
* Kim Jong Il in a bathing suit. NOT a Speedo. Like, one from the 1920's or something.
* Two tortoises doing it. Mrs. Apron and I actually saw this once, at the zoo, and it was hilarious. I want to see it again.
* Two chicks doing it. Sorry, I know that is so predictable, but that is where my mind immediately went after typing the sentence about the two tortoises.
* Actually, scratch what I said about my grandfather-- I don't need to see him again. I would, though, really, really like to meet my grandmother.
* Any car with a Pro-Life bumper-sticker drive above the speed limit.
* Any surviving member from "Monty Python's Flying Circus" for a private tea. Even Gilliam.
* The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company produce a full-scale production of any one of Gilbert & Sullivan's operettas again. They went bankrupt years ago and have ceased fully-staged shows, much to my dismay. I'd even consider getting on a plane to see such a sight.
* A way to get to Europe without getting on a plane.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
I also can't lie or conceal to save the hair on my ass.
When I was an EMT, I remember dropping a patient off for an MRI; this type of a call is called a "wait-and-return." It was a small office and my partner and I waited in the waiting room, reading out-of-date magazines for over two hours while our patient was MRI'd in the big paper-towel tube. As we sat, the nurses and receptionists behind the counter went milling around about their business, not saying much to us as we sat, and waited. It was the part of the job that I enjoyed the most: being on the clock whilst doing nothing but sitting on our asses. The dispatcher keyed us up several times, her voice exhibiting increased annoyance, to let us know that we had calls pending.
"Oh, well," I said back into the mic, "our patient isn't done. It's not like we can leave her here."
No, no-- leave her there we could not.
Funnily enough, that's what we ended up doing. An emergency call came through, which obviously took priority over my partner and I farting into the fabric of the waiting room chairs. So we got up, told the nurse behind the desk that another crew would be over to pick up the MRI patient when she was done, and we hustled to the elevator that would take us back to our ambulance. As the elevator doors were about to shut, a nurse came rushing towards the elevators and slid her hand in between the doors.
"Wait!" she cried as the doors parted. She had a pink Post-It note in her hand. "My friend wrote down her phone number-- she said you were cute." My partner, a 350-pound leviathan, reached out for the note and the nurse jerked her hand back as if offended.
"Um, it's not for you-- it's for your partner," she said, stuffing the Post-It note into my hand.
As I drove the ambulance down the Roosevelt Boulevard with lights and siren blaring, my partner jabbed me in the ribs repeatedly with his enormous sausage finger.
"Fuck, yeah, bitch! There's nothin' like bangin' nurse bush, know what I mean, H. P.!?" My partner had the unflattering habit of referring to me as "H. P." because of my unfortunate resemblance to the world's most famous wizard.
"Please stop calling me that," I said. My partner laughed uproariously. "And I will not be banging any nurse bush, thank you," I said, weaving in and out of traffic.
Truthfully, I was flattered. It marked the first, and only time, a woman had ever given me her phone number for the intended purpose of my calling her back and initiating some sort of conjugal contact. Not only was I flattered, I was also deeply ashamed and extremely uncomfortable. I was practically engaged to the future Mrs. Apron and I felt like I had cheated on her, even though I had done absolutely nothing of the kind. When I arrived home from work that day, my wife was taking a nap. I climbed onto the bed and woke her up.
"Listen," I said, still wearing my uniform and jacket, "there's something I need to talk to you about." She rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and furrowed her brow.
"Okay," she said, "what?"
I took a deep breath.
"Today, at an MRI office, a nurse gave me her phone number. Well, actually, a co-worker of hers gave it to me, I guess she was too embarrassed or whatever, but I didn't do anything and I threw the number away-- I don't think I even talked to her-- I mean, there were three nurses working there, I don't even know which one it was. But... I just wanted to tell you, because I don't want to disrespect you. I love you."
My wife rolled her eyes.
"Bobber," she said, running her hand through my worried hair, "it's okay. I think it's kind of cool, actually-- that I have this hot commodity that other chicks want. You're behaving like you did something wrong-- you're so funny."
Later that year, I had another confession to make.
My wife, being a crafter supremo, had a pair of special fabric scissors, orange-handled Fiskars. They're special, and they're expensive. She loved and depended on these Fiskars, and she was so invested in them that she even wrote her name on the blade in black Sharpie marker.
Well, you know those super-sealed plastic packages that cell-phones and other electronica come encased in that cannot be opened with anything short of copious amounts of C-4? Well, home alone, I needed to open one of these packages and, not having any C-4 handy, I grabbed the closest destructive implement I could find-- Mrs. Apron's Fiskars. And, in the process of cutting the package, half of the handle broke off. I was totally fucking beside myself. I immediately floored it to a small independent fabric store, the broken pair of scissors on the passenger seat. I was convinced that, if I did not immediately purchase and replace the scissors that my wife would stab me straight through the heart with the broken pair.
And, if the judge was a crafter, she'd probably beat the murder rap.
At the fabric store, I ran to the scissor section (I know, I was running with scissors. Naughty-naught.) and there, a portly woman in a hijab was picking up the last pair of identically-sized Fiskars. Talking at a thousand miles a minute, I babbled about my indescretion to her-- told her the whole fucking stupid story and begged her to let me have the new pair, even offering to give her the broken pair I had in my hand, plus paying her the retail cost of the Fiskars, because I am totally insane. To my astonishment, she took the broken pair, saying they were still useful, even with half a handle and my wife's name on them, and she left the store. I couldn't believe it. Behaving like a maniac in public had, for once, actually paid off for me. I jubilantly brought the new Fiskars scissors over to the counter and paid the hefty fee.
I tore open the packaging and threw it away, along with the incriminating receipt. After arriving home, I found a black Sharpie marker and wrote my wife's name on the scissors, and put them back in the container with all her other sewing crap. The still-life was complete again. A day or so later, I was watching her craft at her table and I blurted out a spontaneous confession.
"Oh, Bobber," my wife said, "I knew you'd done something to my scissors."
"How the hell did you know that?" I asked, confident that I had expertly covered my tracks. She smiled at me, holding up the scissors.
"You wrote my name on these upside-down."
Friday, December 17, 2010
But, on the other hand: Meh.
It's not a public service. It's not a gentlemanly pursuit. It's not guaranteed to get rid of Herpes. It's not even particularly well-written. It's low, brutal, mean, and easy (yes, just like my mom), it's just...
I am a 60-year-old man with three children. I'm in excellent health and have been happily married for 39 years.
I have a woman friend at work who is 28. We talk a lot, and I buy her chocolate once a week. I have never tried to see her outside of work and don't intend to, but I like her very much.
Is there something wrong with me that I like her so much? I think about her constantly. She says it's no problem. I am so fond of her it drives me crazy. I have no bad intentions toward her, and I'm not looking for an affair. She is just such a sweet young lady.
Is it normal to feel like this? Do you think I should try to forget about her? -- BLUSHING IN SCHAUMBURG, ILL.
I share your confusion over this particularly perplexing problem. Why on earth would a leathery, sixty-year-old schlep with thinning hair and bulging eye-lid veins be attracted to a not-yet-thirty-year-old comely, voluptuous, long-legged employee, with rich, sumptuous hair cascading over smooth, milky shoulders, breasts the shape of freshly-scooped ice cream-- and just as delicious, no doubt-- a firm stomach, toned at Bally's or the like, and alabaster legs that, when delicately uncrossed 'neath her cubicle desk, part to reveal the moist, delicate oracle of Heaven.
Is it normal to feel like this, you ask? Um... no.
DEAR APRON: I am a young mother in my early 20s with two young children and another on the way. I have been married to my high school sweetheart for three years. We have been together since we were young teenagers. Both of us come from single-parent families, and our marriage has been less than perfect.
I work a full-time swing shift. My husband works only a part-time swing shift job. I have asked him to take on another part-time job so we can be more comfortable financially, but he refuses. He says if I want more money in the household, I will have to get a second job.
If it wasn't for our families' free baby-sitting, I don't know how we could afford child care. We have no money in the bank, and we are deep in debt. I feel overwhelmed with too much responsibility and don't know what to do about it. -- ANONYMOUS MOTHER IN NORTH CAROLINA
DEAR ANONYMOUS MOTHER:
You work a full-time swing shift, and your husband works a part-time swing shift? How the hell were you two ever in the same room long enough to make all those goddamned kids? Most of that action must have happened in the school bathroom while you were in the 11th grade, I guess, right?
I fully support both you AND your husband taking on second jobs. Actually, I think each of you should work three jobs. That way, you'll never be home together long enough to make any more children, and even if you are you'll be way to tired to fuck each other, and you'll finally make enough money to start paying off some of your tremendous debt.
By the way, you still owe me $54.60, you raging bitch.
My girlfriend is Jewish; I am not. Her mother recently found out that I am not circumcised. She has been putting pressure on me to get "snipped." Circumcision at my age would hurt a lot. I am not sure what I should do. What do you suggest? -- DOESN'T LIKE PAIN
DEAR DOESN'T LIKE PAIN:
Wow. Your mother-in-law sounds like a real psychopath. Your only option is to one-up her on the Crazy Scale-- and, son, you've come to the right place to find out how to do it.
Tell your mother-in-law that you will only agree to be circumsised if agrees to eat your foreskin.
I am 13 and I have a problem. My mother gave me $20 so I could go Christmas shopping, but I forgot I was Christmas shopping and ended up buying everything for myself. Now what do I do, because she's really mad. -- IN TROUBLE IN MICHIGAN
DEAR IN TROUBLE:
I laughed so hard when I read your letter that I truly almost sharted myself. What a Christmas Miracle you are, child.
"I forgot I was Christmas shopping and ended up buying everything for myself"! Oh, my fucking God. That is so rich, so hilarious, so amazingly beautiful I could just kiss you, right on your foreskin.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Oh, and who could forget the patients? Not if we tried.
When you come into work in the morning, there are lots of people to greet, and/or they greet you. As soon as the metal door closes behind me, there are staff members sitting, guarding, walking-- there are patients walking, staring, meandering, draped in blankets, doing the slipper-shod, Thorazine Shuffle along the halls. Some are disheveled and disorganized, some are pretty well put together. If you're green, it's occasionally challenging to tell who's a staff member and who's a patient, in certain regrettable instances.
No extrovert by any means, I do make it a point to say "good morning" to as many people as possible when I come into work. There is one staff member with whom we exchange businesslike "Sir's" accompanied by an officious nod. It's nice to have established routines after only three months.
The response to my "Good morning" is invariably "How are you?" or "How're you doing?" I never answer. I didn't really notice that I do this, until I started working in this facility with dozens and dozens of people, and I've caught myself doing it every single day I'm at work. When someone asks me "How're you doing?" I always say, "How are you?" The person in question usually responds with "Good," or "Fine," even though they're usually probably not, and we move on about our business.
I don't know why I do it. Have I decided that how I'm doing is irrelevant-- that I would most likely spout out something that isn't true anyway, so why bother? Am I afraid of saying something dumb, like, "Peachy" or "Ducky"? Or am I hyperaware that the convention of asking people how they're doing and expecting an answer that never reflects the truth isn't a practice worth engaging in?
I don't know.
Every now and then, there's someone at work who will turn it around on me again-- who will catch the avoidance technique that I'm using and call me on it: "Well, how are you?" they'll insist, and I'll be forced to meekly state that I'm "fine."
I rarely am. Whoever is? I'm relieved that I've now worked here long enough that people stop asking me, "So, how do you like it here?" which is a terrible question to ask a new employee, especially if they work at a psychiatric hospital. What are you supposed to say? I invariably replied, "Well, it is what it is." People invariably laughed.
It's no better than asking a newlywed, "So, how's married life?" That question always made me want to vomit straight into the eyes of whomever asked. What a ridiculous, obnoxious, intrusive, insipid question. What the hell are you supposed to say to that?
"Well, it's very much the same as non-married life was, except now I have a ring on my finger and a shared bank account. We don't have a shared email address or customized license plates with our initials, because that's gay. We talk a lot, listen to NPR, watch ridiculous television, laugh, fight, go shopping, and, on a really good night, there's chocolate and/or intercourse."
Maybe I'm just no good at being human, because that's really all this is-- these silly conventions that we've adopted to give us something to say to each other when, probably, there really is nothing to say-- or nothing that ought to be said. This is why I infinitely prefer writing to talking, and I wonder now why I resisted blogging for as long as I did-- because, if someone had told me long ago and far away that there was this great new way to express yourself and you never had to communicate orally with another person, never had to pay heed to societal conventions, never had to worry about saying something idiotic, or stress about awkward silences, or awkward non-silences, man-- I would have been all over that shit.
By the way-- how are you? I really do want to know.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Apparently, it makes it harder to steal my identity. I'm not convinced that this added layer of alleged security is worth the constant embarrassment of having to look at this grainy, unfortunate image of myself every time I pull the card out of my wallet.
There are people who enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror. I am not one of those people. I know people who weren't even awkward-looking in middle school. I still struggle with a chronic, potentially fatal case of the awks. I've considered placing the card in my wallet so that the back, with the signature line, faces me when I pull it out-- but I'm way too much of a creature of habit to do that. That would be almost as momentous a change for me as putting my keys in my right hip pocket as opposed to my left. I mean, come on. What is this-- Revolution?
They basically made me do it at the bank, when I made the mistake of complaining that my magnetic strip didn't always read when I was making debit purchases.
"Oh, we'll get you a new card-- and we're doing this cool thing with pictures of our customers on the cards now, for extra security. Can I take your picture, please? I need the practice-- I've only ever done one before you."
It shows. I wish I could blame the end result entirely on her ineptitude, but that wouldn't be fair. I think my parents each bear forty percent of the blame each-- we can lump the other fifteen percent on the dummy bank employee, and the remaining five on the tremendously out-dated, guinea pig-sized digital camera she was using to immortalize me in debittude.
Wait... that's a hundred percent, right? Eighty, plus-- nevermind.
I look scared. I always look scared when my picture is being taken for the purposes of photo I.D. badges, and I guess that this, in principle, is no different. It is some card-like-thing that you present to people to verify that you are who you claim to be. When I got hired for my job a an EMT lo those many fruitless years ago, I looked petrified, as if someone had just flashed me and, instead of a penis, there was a second set of teeth-- pointy ones. At the psych hospital, my I.D. badge is slightly less horrified, though it probably should have been moreso. Maybe I just didn't realize what I was getting into. After all, I had only spent a week there by the time the picture was taken, and I was doing orientation stuff, on the second floor, away from all the patients, in a room with one other employee and the attractive nurse educator. What was there to look scared of?
Ah, what indeed.
I've had my new debit card with my stupid picture on it for maybe two months. It hasn't changed anything. No vendor at the movie theatre or at the supermarket or the whatever place has scoped out the picture and checked it against my face to reassure him or her that I was not some black guy or Asian lady using my card. Nobody has even given the picture a second glance. The only person who knows it's there is me, and I'm not thrilled about it.
Actually, the short Chinese lady at the dry cleaner is, of course, the one exception to this rule. If there is anything in this world that she can do to make me feel awkward, anxious, and/or uncomfortable-- it will be more than her pleasure, it will be her done duty. I went there last week to pick up three of my wife's coats. As soon as I walked through the door, she started giggling. I looked down, instinctively, to see if my fly was down. It wasn't. I would love, by the way, to own a business, where I laughed in my customers' faces, for no apparent reason, and still demand that they give me significant quantities of money.
She went to the back of the store and brought out the coats.
"$51.23," she said. Now, of course, I didn't have that much cash on me. I never have cash on me. I am a pauper. If a mugger held me up at gunpoint, he would invariably look at the contents of my wallet and angrily shoot me in the face-- after laughing at the picture on my debit card, of course. Speaking of which, I reluctantly handed her my debit card. She took it, and stared at the picture, looking up at me, then looking back at the picture. She laughed again.
"So cute!" she exclaimed, sliding it through the processing machine.
"Yeah, I asked if they would put someone else's picture there, but they said, 'no.'" I joked. It was wasted on her. She looked at my name on the card and said,
At least, "Jewishako" is what I think she said. Even if it's not what she said, it's definitely what she was asking.
"Um, yes," I said, uncomfortably. It wasn't as uncomfortable as when a psych patient asks me if I'm Jewish, but the sensation inside me was similar.
"From Israel?" she pressed, handing me my receipt.
"Uh, no-- my father is from Israel."
"Oh! How funny!" she said, laughing.
Next time, I told myself, I will bring cash. Let her laugh at George Washington's fucking face.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I know, you have every right to be blanched, facially speaking. I was, too, aghast and/or agog. What will no doubt stun you into a shocked silence is the additional fact that the source of this judging was none other than... (dun dun DUN...) my wife.
Yes, it's true, darling. Now, close your mouth before a reindeer poops into it. There's a good girl.
It is surprising, I acknowledge, to learn that even the stalwart Mrs. Apron has unfortunate tendencies that range from the sporadic flatulence to the felonious-equivalent of judging her husband, which I'm pretty sure she swore before a judge and jury at our wedding that she would not do.
"I will obey him with Christ-like reverence until such time as he sees fit to either reveal himself as fallible or ascend to Heaven at the wheel of a chassis-off-frame restored 1963 Volkswagen Beetle."
At least, I think that's what she said. It's been four years, you know. Who can remember all that shit? That's why I, in my infinite wisdom, invented the blogosphere.
In any event, in order to faithfully recreate the circumstances in which I was judged by my wife, I need to take you back a couple of weeks. My wife was invited to participate in a girl's night out, in celebration of a local female blogger who recently began a blog about the charming foibles of raising a child. It was an evening of estrogen-laden jollity, no doubt, featuring said blogger, her mother, grandmother, friends, and readers of her blog. They all met at a restaurant that opened recently several towns away and the gimmick of this particular haunt is that everything is centered around peanut butter-- peanut butter sandwiches with or without bacon, or avocado or what-have-you, peanut-butter-centered desserts, and, well, straight-up peanut butter-- in Bell jars. Homestyle, crunchy, smooth, or hazelnut.
Come and get it, while the peanuts are still fresh and the novelty's still quaint.
This event was not without its attendant embedded social awkwardness, however, for my wife, the venue was nothing short of perfect. She is of the opinion that people who have severe peanut allergies ruin the fun for everybody else and, thus, ought to be sterilized. And you thought I was crazy!
So, Mrs. Apron went to this shindig and returned with a glass jar filled with "Homestyle" peanut butter-- which is just that. No sugar. No partially-hydrogenated horseshit. Now, I don't like peanut butter-- I never have. Back in elementary school, when most of my peers were bringing peanut butter and/or jelly sandwiches on white bread for lunch, I was packing corned beef, high-end mustard, deli swiss on a challah roll. Why didn't I have friends again? Oh, and they called me "Paul Pfeiffer."
"I know you're annoying and you hate everything, but, seriously, you've got to try this shit," my wife said, in the enticing language I prefer best.
And I did. And it was awesomesauce.
It was so devine, in fact, that the very next weekend, I drove us out to this silly little place, with its peanut-shaped tables, and bought another jar to replenish our supply.
Last night, my wife and I were sschnuggled up on the couch together after a lovely, non-breastmilk-related engorgement of Indian food, I turned to Mrs. Apron and said, "You want something sweet, don't you?"
"Peanut butter bar, please," she said, referring to a homemade creation of ours. I returned with a bar for her and a jar for me. After I had inserted the fourth heaping spoonful of Homestyle peanut butter into my mouth, she turned to me and said,
"You are absolutely disgusting, do you know that?"
"Momndfpf?" I replied.
"That, sir, is a condiment-- meant to be used with something, like an apple, or Oreos, or celery. I looked at her, and reinserted my spoon into the jar, being sure to scoop some of the peanut schnork off the beveled sides of the jar.
"It's a condiment, like ketchup, or mustard, salad dressing, mayonnaise, or relish."
"So," I said, holding the spoon up to my mouth, "you're equating this practice with tipping my head back and spraying a heaping blork of Ranch dressing to my mouth?"
"Yes. I am," Mrs. Apron said.
As I relieved the spoon of any trace of peanut butter, I said, "Feeefaabmogcomminon."
Which, in non-peanut-butter-speak translates to, "I feel a blog coming on."
Monday, December 13, 2010
There isn't a President of the United States that people love to hate more than Richard Milhous Nixon.
First of all, he's an ugly cuss, so that makes tearing him up a lot easier, and I can respect that on some basic level. We respond to peoples' physical traits a lot more than we might like to admit. If Adolf Hitler looked like Leonardo DiCaprio, my family tree might never have gotten planted.
I wouldn't dare go on record claiming that Richard Nixon didn't do shitty things-- he did, and I think most of us can agree on that. He did some very shitty things, at a very shitty time in our country's history.
We should all probably hate the thoroughly corrupt and endlessly contemptible Warren G. Harding just as much, if not more, than we hate Richard Nixon, but we don't. Presumably, this is because Warren Harding did shitty things a long time ago, and, let's face it, he was more handsome than Richard Nixon, so it's kind of harder to hate him.
In spite of his immaculate suit, thoughtful demeanor and his distinguished eyebrows, you've got to admit that he does look infinitely capable of some seriously dirty deeds, no?
Every now and then, new Oval Office audio tapes are released from the Nixon era that reignite the nation's obsession with getting a serious hate-on for Dick Nix. On Friday, they released tapes of Nixon going off about blacks and Jews. If you don't know by now that Richard Nixon was a happily profane bigot, then you need to go back to 7th grade, immediately. If you're already in 7th grade, I feel a little wrong about your reading this blog. Stop it.
Here's a few of the choice items from the new tapes about Jews:
* “The Jews are just a very aggressive and abrasive and obnoxious personality.”
* “I don’t want any Jew at that dinner [with then-Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir] who didn’t support us in that campaign. Is that clear? No Jew who did not support us.”
* “Most Jewish people are insecure. And that’s why they have to prove things.”
Nixon also implied that most Jews avoided the draft in Vietnam.
* “I didn’t notice many Jewish names coming back from Vietnam on any of those lists; I don’t know how the hell they avoid it. If you look at the Canadian-Swedish contingent, they were very disproportionately Jewish. The deserters.”
There wasn't much about African-Americans that was especially juicy on these latest tapes-- there's been good (well, bad) stuff before. This time, he stated that he thought blacks could improve and strengthen our country "in terms of 500 years. I think it’s wrong if you’re talking in terms of 50 years. What has to happen is they have be, frankly, inbred. And, you just, that’s the only thing that’s going to do it."
Oh, and it sure doesn't help that he looked like this:
Anyway, as an insecure Jew who is the son of an aggressive, abrasive, obnoxious Jew, I just want to say that, Dick, I don't hate you. You were human. You were mortal. You were an ignorant, ill-informed, uncultured yabbo from the dusty shitstorms of Yorba Linda, California and your mother was whacked out and you lost your brother early on in life and your power went to your head and, brother, you were one fucked up cookie.
And it's okay. Because I'd be willing to bet that, if there were cameras and bugs on every one of us, we'd all hear ourselves and our loved ones say stuff that would turn our skin green and curl our toenails.
I know WikiLeaks sounds like big news now, but nothing ever changes. Nothing is new. We're all quite awful sometimes. The only thing that saves us is that, usually, nobody's listening.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Of course, as obsessed as most heterosexual gentlemen may very well be with pussy, we are, I would posit, far more invested in thoughts about our own penises.
When you have external genitals, it's hard not to think about them. For instance, right now, principally to keep warm, I'm sitting with my legs wrapped around each other, twice-- twisted all up like a corduroy pretzel. As such, my dicknballz are seriously constricted, and, yes, it's uncomfortable, but it's warm. And I like to be warm. Besides-- it's much cheaper than turning up the heat to 62.
(We're Jews-- remember?)
In high school, we all used to joke around in same-gender peer groups about masturbation-- only, we weren't joking at all-- really. We were testing the waters to see what others our age did with their dicks and how often they did it and with the assistance of which, um, stimulant.
We were obsessed. OBSESSED, I TELL YA.
And we still are. We're just better, as we grow older, at concealing it.
I remember once, in middle school, one of probably three times I forced myself to use the school bathroom, I was standing at the urinal, attempting to squeeze a few miserable drops of urine out that absolutely and stalwartly refused to exit due to my profound and unaddressed anxiety.
A young, mildly-retarded peer wearing a turqouise sweatsuit entered the bathroom and went to the urinal right next to mine. "Oh, God," I thought. No urine would ever exit my urethra now. As if it wasn't bad enough that this young lad did not understand the accepted every-other-urinal protocol, instead of just pulling his penis out just enough to use the urinal, he completely dropped trou-- all the way down to his ankles. I stared straight ahead at the wall, hoping for some interior muscle to relax enough to let one drop come out-- just one-- when I heard, in a slightly slurred, slightly too loud voice,
I'm fairly confident that my penis is average-sized, so I don't stress about that. I haven't measured it since middle school (and, because I am an idiot, I used a metal ruler and ended up poking myself in my mons pubis) because I'm fairly certain that it's not a good thing to be thirty years old, married, and measuring your penis. I accept it for what it is. I hope you can, too.
At the mental hospital where I work, I've seen more than my fair share of penises. I haven't seen a single vagina, and that's not a complaint, it's just a fact. When you do rounds, you are obligated to look into each patient's room to see if they're hanging from the ceiling and lacerating themselves with a broken eyeglass lens. Once, when doing rounds, I happened to look into a room where a not terribly unattractive 19-year-old female patient was either changing into or changing out of a shirt, and I saw her in her bra. I looked away so fast I almost got whiplash-- I was petrified of being accused of being a pervert.
Because, I'm so. not.
Penises tend to be small where I work. I wonder if there's some sort of correlation between chronic mental illness and the size of one's doinger. You know, New England Journal of Medicine type stuff. Come on, you'd read it. I mean, hell-- you're reading this.
One day last week, at 7:20 in the morning, I was sitting in the day room, quietly writing some reports, and two patients were in the room with me. One patient, Olga, a short, squat Russian woman with curly hair and lipstick on her cheeks, was sitting at a table. She wears the same thing every day: a men's polo shirt, men's basketball shorts, white tube socks, pulled all the way up past her knees, and white Converse sneaks. She speaks to Donald Trump, but I don't think he hears. Another patient, Judith, a religiously preoccupied Jewish patient who is convinced that, at age 42, she is a survivor of the Holocaust (aren't we all?) was sitting next to me, her eyes closed, rocking gently in her wicker chair. Out of nowhere, Olga spoke up, to the thin air.
"Donald Trump: it's okay, sweetie. You don't have to be ashamed. It's not the size of a man's penis that gives a woman orgasms. It's the PASSION!"
There followed a full minute of silence as that consolation hung in the air like a fart in Buckingham Palace. Judith leaned in close to me.
"She's right, you know. But I know the secret to organic male enhancement. Would you like to hear it?"
I thought for a moment about what the appropriate, theraputic response would be.
"Sure, Judith," I said, "hit it."
"Crushed pumpkin seeds. My boyfriend tried it. He got so huge, I couldn't even believe it. They grow these things in Brazil. They call them 'pepitas.'"
Silence. Judith and I looked at each other. She glanced at my clipboard and said,
"You can write it down. It's okay."
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Sometimes, you look at porn that your grandmother wouldn't understand. Let's face it, it takes a lot more to get a guy going in these heady days of vulvatic saturation.
Sometimes, you've just got to reach for the needle just to feel anything at all.
And sometimes, just sometimes, you need D.F.A.
My husband "Zak" and I have been married five years. His brother "Tom" has never liked me. In fact, he went out of his way to ruin our wedding. Just before the ceremony he feigned a dramatic illness, yelled obscenities at my aunt for taking pictures and refused to wear his dress shirt or tie.
Apron, he was a groomsman.
Tom is being married this spring to a woman who likes me even less than he does. I want no part of their wedding, nor do I even want to attend. Zak insists that I go and be "civil." Is my husband right? Should I swallow my feelings and go to the wedding, or am I justified in sitting this one out? -- THE "BLACK SHEEP" IN-LAW
DEAR THE "BLACK SHEEP":
Before I really begin here, I've gotta say, it's so goshdarn awkward writing "DEAR THE 'BLACK SHEEP'" It's kind of like writing "DEAR 'THE TICK'" God... remember that show? Neither do I.
Anyway, you mentioned that Tom "refused to wear his dress shirt or tie" at your wedding. So, are we talkin', like, half-nekkid groomsman? That's pretty awesome. I hear that's pretty much protocol at most Irish Catholic weddings, but usually not until the reception gets going for an hour or two. It's also customary at these soirees to paint shamrocks on the groomsman's nipples-- just for future reference.
Zak would insist that you go to Tom's wedding. He's such a Lego maniac.
I had an affair with a married man for about nine months. I broke it off after finally realizing it wasn't going anywhere and he was lying to me about his intentions. Part of me wants him to feel pain for his actions. I want to contact his spouse anonymously and tell him not to trust him. Most of my friends advise against this, while a few tell me to go ahead. What do you think? -- JOHN IN SAN FRANCISCO
I'm confused. You say your name is "John," and yet you write, "I had an affair with a married man."
I don't get it.
Either you picked a very strange pseudonym, or I shouldn't have been touching myself while reading your letter.
I am an 80-year-old woman, happily married for 51 years. The other day, my hairdresser (in her 20s) asked me about my sex life with my husband! I feel this is a private matter and none of her business, but I didn't want to sound rude. Can you think of a snappy answer to such a personal question? -- STILL IN LOVE WITH MY HUSBAND
DEAR STILL IN LOVE:
You know, I can think of a snappy answer, but I'm much more interested in what you told your hairdresser, since you "didn't want to sound rude." You must have told her something. God, I can't even imagine two eighty-year-olds doinkin'. How do you, like, not break or or whatever? It must be like sliding a Filet O' Fish in and out of a hard taco shell.
Is that what you told your hairdresser it was like? I mean-- it's not particularly snappy, but it is descriptive.
Please stop having sex. It bothers me.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Yesterday evening, I sprayed his leg with dog medication that expired two years ago.
If you could ask the nice men to put a jacket over the handcuffs so the neighbors don't have to see, I'd really appreciate it.
I don't know when I basically became pretty much a criminal, but it happened. Somehow, somewhere along the way, you lose things, just a little bit at first.
I still pay all my bills on time. Early, even. But maybe one day, I'll forget to pay the water bill. Maybe it will be in May, as I get all heady with kiss-my-ass excitement over my 31st birthday. It could be in August, as heat exhaustion melts my brain into something resembling three-year-old apple cider and coagulated buttercream.
Apparently, according to the local ski shop, I've been skiing on skis whose bindings are no longer "indemnifiable." So, I'm a criminal on the slopes, too. And I thought there I was only guilty of perpetrating crimes against the laws of fashion. Pull me over, Tim Gunn, P.D.
Sometimes, I wear the same pair of trousers for three or so days in a row. I just can't be bothered to take out my wallet, my Burt's Bees, my keys, my cellphone holster, my cellphone, and unloop my belt and then do the whole shenanigan over again with a new pair of trousers every day.
I mean, really? Every day? Come on. It's not like I shit myself or rub my ass in tartar sauce. Why should I change trousers every day? I'm a very clean person.
Except for the fact that I don't change my trousers every day.
Oh, and sometimes I go a little too long between showers. Like, long enough to forget which way the faucet turns to get hot and which way it turns to get cold. But... we don't really need to talk about that anymore.
When I'm alone in my car, I sometimes shout the "N-word" at drivers who do unbelievably annoying things in front of me-- like drive the speed limit, for instance. These drivers, especially in my neighborhood, are invariably not black. Still, it's wrong, and I know that, and it's just another reason why, basically, I'm pretty much a criminal.
Feel free to click "Un-follow this blog" now, or whenever it's convenient for you.
When people talk to me, sometimes I visualize terrible things happening to them. I have fantasies about doing some pretty off-the-wall shit, but I never do it. Like, at work, we're doing Secret Santas-- only for those who want to participate. I thought it would be hilarious to select a female coworker, and then buy her underwear (in her exact bra and panty size) and scented lotion and shit, just for shits and giggles. Because, let's face it-- my sense of humor is very fucked up and, basically, pretty much criminal.
I'd like to tell my sister that, while I love her, I don't like her. And that's kind of a criminal thing to do to a family member. In fact, short of placing a hot iron on a family member's face, I can't really think of a more awful thing you could do to a family member, to let them know that your obligation and connection to them is strictly obligatory, and that, if given the choice, you would rather be in a room with an ox suffering from nuclear diarrhea than with your own sibling-- but it's true.
And I wish it weren't. And I suppose that's something that makes me slightly less than criminal. But I really should call the vet soon.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
"You just passed me."
"I know," she said, rattled and nonplussed all at the same time, "because the goddamn fu-shuh-fu-shuh map said it was on the left and, of course, it was on the right! But you're watching out for me-- how fun! I'll be right there."
I don't have many friends, and the ones I do have are unlikely at best. Julie is in her mid-sixties, and I met her through-- where else?-- doing Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Her long "brown" hair and youthful face have allowed her to continue to believably play the ingenue ("Depends on how far away the audience is from me," she says with a crinkly grin) for more years than practical. She's directed me in three of the seven operettas I've done, and I'm proud to call her my friend. She came to meet me ostensibly to discuss administrative matters of our society, but, as usual, we cheerfully digressed. Because that's what friends do. It's much easier to talk business with business associates.
Somehow, we got to talking about Christmas. "I hate Christmas, and I hate myself for hating Christmas," she said, staring listlessly out of window at the traffic and the sky. A lot of people hate Christmas, in that she's no different from lots of other people. They hate the rabid consumerism, the "Simply Havin' a Wonderful Christmastime" stupid song, they hate the tinsel and the marketing and the Hallmark and the expectations. Julie hates Christmas because it's right around the time she lost her son.
"We lost him on January 4th. I had convinced my husband to go away, to Las Vegas, of all places, for Christmas and, while we were gone, the kids decided to decorate the house for us-- they pulled everything out-- every wreath, every light, and they put everything where it had gone for years, everything in its place. And, when we came home from our trip, it was so beautiful. And then, when our son died, I thought to myself, 'Oh, my God-- if only there was a picture of him setting up the house...' And, wouldn't you know it, after the funeral, an old, dear friend from Cape Cod gave me a picture of him decorating the tree, you can barely see his head poking out from around the side."
I looked at her, studied every little line around her eyes, and I thought about how many tears had traced those lines in the fourteen years since her son was killed in an automobile wreck, as the pine needles had started to litter her carpet.
"That tree is still on my back porch. Every year, I drag my ass to unpack the decorations and I decorate the house-- I do it for my husband-- but we haven't had a Christmas tree in the living room for fourteen years. I just can't do it. And a friend of mine a couple years ago was at the house and he said, 'Do you still have that fucking tree on your porch?' And I'll get rid of it-- some day. Some day I'll do it, but I'm just not ready yet."
She glanced up at me and she grasped onto my arm.
"God, I'm so sorry for unloading on you, honey. But, I just-- I don't know. I wish that I could make an, I don't know, an appointment, to cry and scream and say, 'AAAAH! FUCK YOU, CHRISTMAS! I HATE YOU!' and just get it all out of my system, you know, wear black for a day, and then just get on with it. But I wear black too much anyway. I'm just so Goddamn mad that, you know, it wasn't bad enough that my son got taken away from me, but Christmas did, too. And then I think about everyone else who's ever lost a son-- a car accident, disease, war... I don't know."
I don't know, either, I thought. I was going to say it, but it would have sounded stupid, and I probably would have started to cry if I had opened my mouth.
"And I think about the people you work with, too," Julie said, "people who want to kill themselves, and I just can't imagine that. Even after what happened, I can't understand it-- not wanting to be here anymore. I mean-- the sky is still blue. Warm water in the shower feels so good. There's music and people to love-- I just don't understand it."
There is music and people to love. The sky is still blue. The water in the shower is still warm. And my sixty-something-year-old friend sits with me at the Starbucks counter, is late in her New Beetle, and her backpack is a moose. And one day, I know, there will be a tree again. And the star will shine, and it will make her cry, and it will be very, very beautiful.